What is so important about the G20 besides the savings?


By FRANCES D’EMILIO | The Associated Press

The Group of Seven industrialized nations – which was the Group of Eight for a few years before Russia was suspended for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula – is probably the best-known “G” group.

The Group of 20 falls back on the seven: Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The other members include a dozen other countries, established powers as well as fast growing economies: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. The European Union is the 20th member, and since the EU is made up of 27 nations, including three in the G-7, the G-20 actually represents the interests of more than just countries.


In terms of population and economic weight, the G-20 is impressive. Member countries represent 60% of the planet’s population and 80% of the world’s gross domestic product. There is also a lot of back and forth between members – the G-20 countries account for 75% of foreign trade.


The Group of 20 is considered the premier international forum for economic and financial cooperation. Following a 1997 Asian economic crisis and its aftermath, G-7 finance ministers created the largest group in 1999 so that other countries could have their say. After the 2008 global financial crisis sparked by the subprime mortgage debacle in the United States, Washington pushed for the G-20 to be elevated to the level of heads of state and government. The leaders, at their 2009 summit in Pittsburgh, said they intended to “turn the page on an era of irresponsibility and adopt a set of policies, regulations and reforms to address the needs of the 21st century global economy ”.


Some suggest that a membership update could be helpful, especially given the urgency to tackle climate change. After the global crisis triggered by US subprime loans, “the emergence of the G-20 as a forum for international policy coordination seemed to be the only bright side of this mess,” says Rosario Forlenza, professor of contemporary history and anthropology at LUISS University in Rome. But he and others note that South Africa is still the only African country in the G-20. When it comes to climate issues, “Africa is crucial,” says Forlenza. The absence of Nigeria, which has the largest economy and the largest population in Africa, thus appears to be a glaring gap.


Before presidents and prime ministers arrived in Rome for the summit, the “Sherpas” had worked for a long time to find an agreement on the final G-20 declaration. Referring in this context to diplomats or other government officials, the term “Sherpa” is used in recognition of the Himalayan people renowned for their expertise in mountaineering and who are leading the way to the top.

As in a multi-act play, in the months leading up to a G-20 summit, ministerial-level meetings are held, ranging from foreign affairs, trade, finance, education, health and environment. These thematic caucuses bring back pledges. In Venice this summer, for example, G-20 finance ministers backed a sweeping international tax review that would include a minimum 15% corporate levy to deter mega-companies from taking refuge in low-rate tax havens. The Rome summit is an opportunity to seal the deal before the curtain falls.


Each year, the G-20 presidency rotates, and with it, the country that hosts the group’s annual summit. Italy took the helm in December 2020. Going back year after year, previous summits were held in Saudi Arabia (in November 2020, a rally that took place remotely due to precautions against the pandemic), Japan, Argentina, Germany, China, Turkey, Australia, Russia, Mexico, France, South Korea, Canada, United States, Great Britain and United States.


The G-20 summit gives host countries a chance to advance the issues that matter to them. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is keen to empower women economically. An economist who previously served as President of the European Central Bank, Draghi often points out how the exclusion of women from the labor market – often due to the need to care for children or the elderly at home – slows down the economic growth. The 2014 G20 summit in Australia set a target of reducing the gender employment gap by 25% by 2025.

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